Asia Pacific and Japan: AI Tools, Employee Churn, and Economic Pressures Fuel Identity Attack Surface

CyberArk Survey: AI Tool Use, Employee Churn and Economic Pressures Fuel the Identity Attack Surface for Organisations in Asia Pacific and Japan

CyberArk’s recent global report reveals the impact of economic conditions and technological advancements, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), on the rise of identity-focused cybersecurity risks. The report, titled “CyberArk 2023 Identity Security Threat Landscape Report,” emphasizes the potential consequences of an expanding and vulnerable attack surface, referred to as ‘cyber debt,’ resulting from prioritizing digital and cloud initiatives over cybersecurity investments.

The convergence of economic challenges and rapid digital acceleration has exposed organizations to increased risks. In the Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ) region, cybersecurity teams experienced a growing cyber debt in 2022, where security spending fell behind investments in broader digital business ventures. The report warns that cyber debt levels could compound in 2023 due to economic constraints, elevated staff turnover, reduced consumer spending, and global uncertainties. As organizations continue to invest in digital and cloud initiatives to drive efficiency and innovation, these factors have a ripple effect on cybersecurity.

Within the APJ region, nearly all organizations (99.9%) expect identity-related compromises in 2023 due to factors like economic cutbacks, geopolitical issues, cloud adoption, and hybrid work environments. Around 63% anticipate these compromises to occur during digital transformation projects, such as cloud adoption or migrating legacy applications. Concerns about insider threats driven by disgruntled former employees or exploitable credentials remain high, with 69% of organizations expecting employee churn-related cyber issues in 2023. Additionally, 73% of cybersecurity experts in the region express worry about the loss of confidential information stemming from employees, ex-employees, and third-party identities.

To address the evolving threat landscape, APJ organizations plan to deploy 70% more Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) tools in the next year. However, the improper securing of human and machine identities with access to sensitive data through these tools can create gateways for attacks.

The report also highlights key identity and cybersecurity concerns for 2023. As generative AI gains popularity and widespread adoption, 98% of APJ cybersecurity experts state that their organizations have deployed AI tools to enhance identity security capabilities. The report identifies three primary areas where AI tools are being utilized: automation and flexibility, addressing cyber skill shortages, and breach detection and prevention. However, 94% of cybersecurity experts in the APJ region anticipate negative impacts from AI tools and services in 2023, with chatbot security vulnerabilities being a major concern. These vulnerabilities include potential employee impersonation, ransomware, malware, and phishing.

Ransomware attacks remain a significant issue, with 88% of surveyed organizations experiencing them in the past year. Alarmingly, 69% of APJ cybersecurity experts admit to paying ransoms for recovery at least once in the last 12 months. Furthermore, 61% of local companies express concerns about their ability to detect or prevent attacks stemming from software supply chain compromises.

The report emphasizes that identities, both human and machine, play a central role in nearly all attacks. Approximately half of the identities require sensitive access to perform their functions, making them attractive attack vectors. Critical areas of the IT environment are inadequately protected, with 62% stating that the highest-sensitivity employee access lacks adequate security. Moreover, machines have more sensitive access (39%) than humans (45%). The top risk factors cited in the APJ region include credential access, defense evasion, impact, initial access, and execution.

Business-critical applications, including revenue-generating customer-facing apps, enterprise resource planning (ERP), and financial management software, are particularly vulnerable due to unmanaged and unknown identities with access to them. Only 47% of organizations have implemented identity security controls for securing these applications. Third parties, such as partners, consultants, and service providers, are regarded as the riskiest human identity type.

According to Matt Cohen, CEO of CyberArk, organizations’ drive for business efficiency and innovation persists despite staffing cutbacks and economic pressures. However, attackers consistently target identities as the most effective way to breach cyber defenses and gain access to sensitive data. This high level of risk underscores the importance of establishing trust in identifying who and what to trust, preventing cyber debt accumulation, and building long-term cyber resilience.

Vincent Goh, President and General Manager of Asia Pacific and Japan at CyberArk, acknowledges the pressing challenges faced by organizations in today’s complex cybersecurity landscape. He highlights the convergence of economic conditions, the rapid evolution and adoption of AI, and the resulting cyber risks centered around identity-based attacks. Goh emphasizes the need for implementing proactive security measures, such as Identity Security, Just-In-Time access, and adopting least privilege principles for business-critical applications. These measures are crucial for improving security posture, preventing unauthorized access, and potential breaches.